For in-office bleaching, the dentist often combines bleach with a laser or light to speed up the process. A visit usually takes from 30 minutes to 1 hour, and you may need more than one treatment. Your dentist will protect your gums with a gel or shield and then put the bleaching agent on your teeth. The bleach concentrate used for the in-office process is generally stronger than that used in other methods, because the dentist can watch how it is used.
Your dentist may also give you a kit with a mouthpiece and gel containing the bleach. Your dentist may make a custom mouthpiece to fit your teeth. These kits usually use a lower concentration of bleach than an in-office process. Your dentist will tell you how often to wear the mouthpiece and for how long.
An over-the-counter kit is similar to what your dentist gives you. The bleach concentration, how you use it, and how long you use it varies between products. For example, some products use a mouthpiece and others use strips you lay across your teeth.
All of these methods have different costs, and your insurance will usually not pay for them. You choose the method that works best for you and that you can afford.
Talk to your dentist before whitening your teeth. It does not work for everyone. Using a bleach product for:
- Yellowish teeth usually works well.
- Brownish teeth will work, but not as well as for yellowish teeth.
- Grayish-hued teeth may not work well at all.
Bleaching also may not work if you have had bonding or tooth-coloured fillings in your front teeth. The bleach will not affect the colour of these materials, and they will stand out if you whiten the rest of your teeth. Always talk with your dentist before you use tooth whitening, especially if you have many fillings, crowns, or very dark stains.
Bleaching your teeth may have side effects. Teeth can become sensitive when you are using the bleaching solution, but this sensitivity usually goes away when you finish your treatment. A mouthpiece that does not fit well may hurt your gums.
Remember that whitening is not permanent. Your teeth will slowly become discolored again. Some lifestyle choices, such as drinking coffee or using tobacco, will speed up how fast your teeth lose their new whiteness.